Great War Western Front “Stockwell Force” 10th November 1918 Liberation of Ath single Military Medal awarded to Private E. Butterworth, 2nd/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, Territorial Force, who had been with his battalion since the day it landed on the Western Front on 4th May 1915, and still in service with the battalion on the final day of the war, he being one of nine men of his battalion, the last of the battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers to see action during the war, to be awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field when in action west of Tournai during the liberation of Ath on 10th November 1918 as part of the short lived mobile column of arms called “Stockwell Force”. From the 10th to 11th November this force took part in the liberation of Ath, fighting its way across and establishing a bridgehead over the Dendre river. They had just about liberated Ath, and were in he midst of a final firefight with the Germans when the Armistice was announced, orders to that affect having been received at 10.15 a.m., and put into place for 11 a.m.
Military Medal, GVR 1st type bust; (200581 PTE. E. BUTTERWORTH. 5/LAN: FUS:)
Condition: light contact wear, Very Fine.
Edward Butterworth came from Heywood, Lancashire, now a part of Greater Manchester, and saw service during the Great War as a Private (No.2306 later No.200581) with the 2nd/5th Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, Territorial Force, being present out on the Western Front as part of the 164th Brigade in the 55th West Lancashire Division.
Butterworth had originally landed with the battalion at the front on 4th May 1915, and was still in service with the battalion on the final day of the war. Most specifically he won his Military Medal for bravery in the field when in action west of Tournai on 10th November 1918, he being confirmed as one of nine members of the battalion to earn this decoration on that day, with his award being published in the London Gazette for 23rd July 1919.
On the 10th November 1918 the 2nd/5th Battalion had the distinction of being the last battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers to be in action during the war, when under the command of Lieutenant Colonel G.S. Brighten, D.S.O. Having been pulled out of the line back on 26th October to become the infantry of column of arms called “Stockwell Force” after the commander of the 164th Brigade, Brigadier General C.I. Stockwell, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., till the 8th November the column trained for quick pursuit of the enemy, and concentrated immediately to the west of Tournai on 9th November. At 1 p.m. on that same day it began its advance, the advanced guard being commanded by Major J.R. Bodington, M.C. 2nd/5th Battalion. The cavalry of the force met German opposition about two miles west of Leuze, and the force halted for the night, with two companies of the 2nd/5th providing outposts.
Next day, 10th November, the 9th Cavalry Brigade took over the duties of advanced guard, and, after brushing aside slight opposition on each side of Leuze, succeeded in reaching the western outskirts of Ath before it was held up at 12.35 p.m. by strong resistance all along the line of the Dendre river and its canal. The 2nd/5th were ordered to attack and capture the bridges leading into Ath from the south-west. “C” Company commanded by Captain C.V. Broadbent, M.C., and “D” Company commanded by Captain H. Waterhouse, where detailed for the task, with “A” Company commanded by Captain G. Walsh, M.C., and “B” Company commanded by Captain L.A. Wilson in support.
Orders for this operation were not given till so late that, to attack before dark, the battalion had to take the direct road over a skyline to its assembly position instead of a covered but longer way. It was spotted and came under heavy shelling and machine-gun fire which caused casualties to men and transport. Wilson in command of “B” Company, showed conspicuous gallantry; though he was in full view of the Germans and his horse was twice wounded under him, he cooly reorganised his men and led them to more sheltered positions. Captain K.E. Wheeler, the battalion intelligence officer, also distinguished himself by making repeated journeys through the shelling in his endeavours to establish a forward battalion headquarters. The attack was launched at 3 p.m.; but the leading companies were soon held up by machine gun fire, and “A” and “B” fared no better when they later tried to take up the task, being met with fire from trench mortars with a flat trajectory. Parties succeeded, however, in working from house to house, largely under Waterhouse’s leadership, till they gained the western bank of the canal. The battalion was then left on that line as outposts for the night with the intention that they should hold the enemy frontally whilst other troops attack on the next day, though the 2nd/5th wee ordered to try to force a crossing during the night or early in the morning. During the advance, Waterhouse and Wheeler had, under great difficulties, performed an act of mercy in putting in place of safety a seriously wounded officer.
“C” and “D” Companies pressed the enemy all night. They found two iron bridges intact, on the two roads leading from Ath to Peruwelz south of the town, the northern of the two bridges was barricaded and mined. But, again under Waterhouse’s skilful leadership, a Lewis gun was mounted in a house close to the bridge and by 7 a.m. the German driven from the latter before they were able to blow it up. The barricade was destroyed and the troops crossed into Ath. The Germans withdrew all along the line and were closely followed. They were hustled over a bridge on the eastern outskirts of the town without being given time to destroy it. Patrols of the battalion reached the high ground east of Ath soon after 8 a.m. At 10.15 a.m. orders were received that an armistice came into force at 11 a.m., when Lieutenant Colonel Brighten announced the news to the overjoyed inhabitants of this town his battalion had freed.